Toxic children’s jewelry is the latest dangerous import from China to make news. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is probing the presence of cadmium in Chinese-made children jewelry, and Wal-Mart stores have already removed such products from store shelves.
The moves by the CPSC and Wal-Mart came after laboratory tests found cadmium, which is toxic, in some children’s jewelry. According to the Associated Press, the most contaminated piece analyzed for its investigation contained a whopping 91 percent cadmium by weight. Other pieces of jewelry tested at 89 percent, 86 percent and 84 percent by weight. Overall, 12 percent of 103 pieces of jewelry contained at least 10 percent cadmium.
Some of the pieces with the highest cadmium content included bracelet charms sold at Wal-Mart, at the jewelry chain Claire’s and at dollar stores, as well as “The Princess and the Frog” pendants. Other findings included the fact that the toxic cadmium shed easily from some pieces, increasing the danger to children. All of the jewelry used in the Associated Press investigation were purchased at national and regional retail chains or franchises in New York, Ohio, Texas and California, mostly in November and December.
According to the Associated Press, Chinese manufacturers likely switched to using cadmium in the jewelry because they are barred from using lead. But cadmium is every bit as dangerous. Cadmium is a known carcinogen, and can interfere with brain development in very young children. On the Centers for Disease Control’s priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7. Kids can ingest the cadmium in jewelry by sucking or biting it.
According to the Associated Press, in spite of its high toxicity, there are no restrictions on cadmium content on jewelry, and the sale of these products is perfectly legal. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 set the first explicit regulation of jewelry, but that only applies to painted toys. And despite periodic complaints about the toxin over the past couple of years, the CPSC has never issued a recall because of cadmium.
A day after the Associated Press published its report on cadmium tainted jewelry, a Wal-Mart spokesperson said the findings were “troubling”, and the retailer began pulling the items cited in the Associated Press report.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal also said Monday that his office would investigate cadmium content in some products, particularly costume jewelry. In New York, state Sen. James S. Alesi said he will introduce legislation to ban the sale of cadmium in jewelry in his state. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said he’s reviewing the law that regulates such substances to decide if a fix is needed.
According to the Associated Press, the CPSC said it would be opening an investigation into the matter immediately. Inez Tenenbaum, head of the agency, also addressed the controversy in taped remarks slated to be delivered Tuesday in Hong Kong, and urged other countries to ensure that manufacturers do not substitute cadmium, antimony or barium in place of lead in children’s products. The Associated Press reported that Tenenbaum singled out cadmium, buts stressed that voluntary efforts to restrict its use might not be enough.